Leon Edwards (20-3, 1NC) pulled off a shocking upset by knocking out Kamaru Usman (20-2) in the fifth and final round with a huge head kick to claim the welterweight title in the main event at UFC 278 from Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The first round saw Edwards land the first takedown of Usman in his UFC career, tripping the champ and taking the mount position before moving into back control. Edwards held a body triangle and worked over the last minute of the round to get a rear-naked choke, but Usman managed to survive to the bell.
In the second, Usman walked Edwards back against the cage and poured it on with a slew of strikes, piecing together upper cuts, hooks and jabs. But Edwards fought off the champ, locking him up in the clinch and working to stop any momentum built early in the round. Late in the round, Usman moved Edwards yet again against the cage, changed levels, and took the challenger to the mat to solidify a great bounce back round.
Usman again showed his dominance to open the third, controlling every bit of the Octagon as he took Edwards down and maintained his positioning against the cage. Usman proceeded to walk Edwards back against the cage, tossing a handful of shots before taking the challenger to the ground and having his way with Edwards.
Edwards started strong to the championship round, moving in for a takedown, but a cage grab from Usman kept him on his feet. Unable to get him down, Edwards let the champ go, who proceeded to take Edwards down immediately. Edwards took some punishment on the ground before making his way back to his feet, where Usman held him against the cage for the better part of the fourth.
In the fifth and final round, Usman continued to maintain his positioning before referee Herb Dean moved the fighters back into the center of the cage due to inactivity. Late in the round, Edwards stunned Usman with a walk-off knockout to claim the title.
Edwards finally stepped into the main event after three years of vying for a title shot. Over that span, Edwards had four fights cancelled and won in the only bout he fought, a decision over Nate Diaz.
Usman has been on a tear since winning the welterweight crown in 2019, earning a decision victory over Tyron Woodley, knocking out and later earning a decision victory over Colby Covington, earning a decision victory and later knocking out Jorge Masvidal, and knocking out Gilbert Burns.
With the loss, Usman misses out on tying Anderson Silva’s record for most consecutive wins in the UFC with 16. For what happens next after, Usman has said he’s planning to jump two weight classes into light heavyweight, interested in a showdown with current champ Jiri Prochazka, per an interview with TMZ sports. But with the knockout, one has to assume they’re running this back.